If you’re like most people, you’ve been taught that being selfish is bad and means you don’t care about anyone but yourself. This is one of the many lies you’ve been taught. Being selfish does not mean you don’t care about others; it means you understand the importance of taking care of yourself first so that you will have more than enough to give to others.
When you are on an airplane and are being instructed about safety procedures, why do you think adults are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before attempting to help a child with theirs? The reason is because if you do not take care of yourself first, you may put yourself in a position where you are unable to help a child and in the end you may both perish.
The same is true for all parts of your life and in all circumstances. If you do not take care of your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well being and make this a top priority in your life, you will not be able to assist and give to others in a way that nourishes you both. When you think about others before thinking about yourself and your needs and when you continually give to others at the expense of giving to yourself, you will find yourself depleted, resentful and may even end up physically ill. How helpful can you be to others if this happens to you?
You have been taught that it is noble to think about others first and more spiritual and yet even Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, not love your neighbor before loving yourself. When you take care of yourself and love yourself fully, you are in a much better position to be of service to others. You will be giving from a heart that is overflowing and as you give you will feel renewed and energized rather than exhausted.
Even though I feel I have created healthy boundaries around being mindful of my needs before overextending myself in helping others, I still find it challenging at times to say, “no” to the request of others when I know that saying, “yes” would be coming from feelings of obligation or from fear of looking bad. I look forward to the day when I can say ,“no” without having any concern about being judged for not saying, “yes.” In the moment, it would be so much easier to say “yes” and yet I know that doing so would be inauthentic and a cop out. I am more committed to being authentic than I am to being liked and accepted.
Sometimes, I believe that I am judged by others when I put my needs first because they are faced with the realization that they compromise themselves and say, “yes” to others when they really want to say, “no.” On some level I think they are angry with themselves for not being true to themselves and it is easier to express anger toward me than to look within themselves. What do you think?